Assos is a city on the coast of the western part of what is now Turkey. It is only mentioned in the Bible in Acts 20:13-14.

A famous resident of Assos was Aristotle, who lived from 384-322BC. According to Britannica, he was a philosopher, psychologist, logician, moralist, political thinker and biologist, and the founder of literary criticism. Indeed, he produced his own encyclopaedia, which became a unique piece of work in that it came from a single mind based on one set of ideas.

Aristotle attended Plato’s Academy in Athens for 20 years from when he was aged 17 and was present when Plato died. He then moved to Assos for three years (37-40) and set up a school there before moving to Mytilene. While in Assos he carried out extensive research on zoology and marine biology. He became the tutor of Alexander the Great when the latter was aged 13-16, and he was the inspiration for Alexander’s interest in philosophy, medicine and scientific investigation.

At that time there were four main Greek dialects—Doric, Ionic, Attic and Aeolic—and Aristotle taught Alexander that Attic Greek was a superior form of the language. It later became the basis for Koine (pronounced kee-nee) Greek, or common Greek, and it was this form of the language that conquering Alexander took all over the world. It became the foundation for a common language throughout the empire and prepared the world for the propagation of the gospel, first with the Old Testament being translated in the third century BC by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, and then with the New Testament being written in Greek for all the world to read.

The city of Assos was built on a prominent hill right on the coast and is adorned with a temple of Athena on its summit. The hilltop is fortified by natural terraces on three sides whilst the port by the sea was the only harbour available on that part of the coastline.

The wall of the city has extensive sections still standing, probably the best example of Greek city walls today. The main gate to the city on the road leading north still has the towers either side of the gate, standing to a reasonable height, and it is highly probable that this is the road that the Apostle Paul would have used to enter the city.

After the commotion in Ephesus, Paul travelled to Greece and then determined to make his way to Jerusalem via Philippi and Troas. A number of brethren went ahead and waited for Paul in Troas (Acts 20:3-5). Luke records, “we sailed away from Philippi,” and here again we have an indication that Luke is back with Paul after having stayed a while in Philippi.

On arriving in Troas, Paul spoke to the ecclesia late into the night and comforted them after reviving Eutychus (whose name means fortunate), following his fall out of the window.

Luke then records: “And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot. And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene” (Acts 20:13-14). The distance from Troas to Assos is about 45km or a 10-hour continuous walk. Paul probably took 1-2 days to walk this distance and this begs the question: why did he take that arduous journey when he could have travelled with the brethren by sea?

The only hints we are given are expressed this way: he was “minding himself ” (v15) to go alone and on foot; afterwards he “had determined to sail by Ephesus” (v16) and declared that “now” he was ready to “go bound”to Jerusalem (v22). These words suggest that he was deliberately seeking solitude to gather his thoughts together and make a decision about finishing his course with joy (v24). He needed to come to terms with the evidence of the Spirit (v23) and accept his personal cup of suffering. He desired to work through his next course of action and plan out what he was going to say to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus. He could not do this on a crowded ship and so he made the deliberate choice to seek God in solitude and prayer in preparation for what was about to come.